How Pope Francis interprets Genesis

September 26, 2015 • 2:15 pm

Inspired by both my piece on the Pope’s refusal to face the problem of overpopulation, itself inspired by an essay by Katha Pollitt in The Nation, reader Pliny the in Between posted this cartoon at his/her site Evolving PerspectivesIt shows how the Catholic Church might now interpret Genesis 3:6:

Toon source- props_and_supporting_cast.001

29 thoughts on “How Pope Francis interprets Genesis

    1. Birth control pills? I thought it was one of those shade guides we use for matching tooth colors. Are you suggesting vanity about white teeth isn’t the original sin?

      1. Got you beat. My first impression was one of those Viewmaster wheels. Enlarged a couple times and spent a short while synthesizing the whole thing and came up with the correct interpretation without peeking in the comments, tho. Not bad for a male contemporary of PCC’s.

  1. This is quite accurate. Maybe not of Bergoglio’s beliefs per se, but certainly of many on the religious right. Many (men generally) see contraception as giving license to women to go out and have sex without consequences – or at least without more consequences than men. A frightening thought to many.

    I’m actually surprised that Bergoglio isn’t more confrontational about some of these ideas. He’s clearly being political about it. whether he’s trying to defuse criticism from the right or left is not clear. Just as he steered away from dogmatic statements about abortion and same-sex marriage, he appears to be trying to focus on matters other than controlling women’s sexual behavior.

    I find the whole business quite interesting.

  2. We as a civilization face no greater threat than our own overpopulation. Francis’s insistence that continued population growth is possible, let alone desirable, represents profound innumeracy.

    A mere 1 3/4% annual growth rate represents a doubling every 40 years; even with under 2% growth, a child born today would die in a world with 30 billion humans — and a child born 80 years from today would die in a world with well over an hundred billion humans. In a mere quarter century — about as much time as since the founding of the United States — there’d be over a trillion humans…which works out to about 150 square meters per person of dry land. Each generation after that would cut that figure in half again.

    And, again: that’s only assuming a superbly modest 1 3/4% annual growth rate!

    The answer is unavoidable: humans will reach zero population growth, whether we like it or not, and in no more than a few more generations at absolute most.

    Even more to the point…we’ve already got more humans than the carrying capacity of the planet, as evidenced by the fact that human-caused pollution is a global-scale phenomenon. What we need, and what we will have whether we want it or not, is negative population growth, until there’s at least an order of magnitude fewer humans than there are today.

    If we aim for a 3% annual decline in population, mirroring the historical growth rate, we can be back under a billion by the end of the century. At 7% we’re at the 100 million mark by then, which is likely ideal.

    The choice is ours: we actually do have the ability to control our reproduction and thus our population. But, if we fail to exercise that control…something else will do it for us.



    1. Quite so. Human population growth will cease one way or the other. No amount of technological advance can create space and food out of nothing. No loaves or fishes for us.

    2. I agree about overpopulation and we seem like we just don’t care anymore. It was a big deal when I was a kid in the 70s & now I rarely hear it talked about. Remember that Star Trek episode based on the short story Make Room, Make Room? You don’t see that sort of fret in sci fi anymore.

      1. I know. My most frequent answer to any world problem/crisis someone tells me about is, “There are too fucking many people on the planet.” A friend of mine’s grandson is a college sophomore. He acts like I’m the only person he’s ever heard that from.

        I think part of the problem is that whenever someone says that, people of any other ethnic persuasion react like it’s a call for genocide. In the face of that, a “Fuck it, if people are that simple, I don’t care anymore,” reaction is understandable.

        1. I know. My most frequent answer to any world problem/crisis someone tells me about is, “There are too fucking many people on the planet.”

          Actually, it’s not that there’re too fucking many people; it’s that there’re too many fucking people.

          But, regardless, pick any of the serious problems we face today…and it simply wouldn’t be even vaguely concerning were the total global human population on the order of 70 million rather than 7 billion. We’d have comparatively unlimited remaining fossil fuel reserves. CO2 emissions would be cut by 99%. We’d need an hundredth as much cropland, 1% as much groundwater, and dump two orders of magnitude less fertilizer and pesticide into the environment. No matter what problem today seems insurmountable…it wouldn’t even be on the radar with such population levels.

          And we could get there humanely in perhaps a timely manner…if only people would stop having children.


          1. Considering that we accept limits on our freedom in all sorts of other contexts, for good reason, I think it would be eminently reasonable for governments to limit the number of children people may have.

            Yes, I know there are lots of wrinkles, but I don’t feel like pulling out the iron right now.

          2. I wonder that if the bulk of programmed humans had the intelligence to understand evolutionary theory then perhaps we would not be in the throes of anthropogenic 6th extinction?

            Species come and species go. It seems as though Homo sapiens is doing this with some rapidity and no awareness. We don’t seem to be able to over-ride our reproductive imperative – hence overpopulation and overconsumption of resources. Could this be regarded as evolutionary ‘unfitness’?

            Ultimately it’s just evolution in process!

            1. There’s reason for hope. Current projections are for flat or near-flat population levels at about ten billion by the end of the century. It’s most unlikely that such counts are sustainable…but it does give hope that we can achieve sustainability somehow or another at some smaller number.


      2. I wonder if the explanation might be, at least in part, that as we get closer to “critical mass”, most people, given that there are no easy, obvious, technical solutions for Malthusian catastrophes, would rather bury their head in the sand. It’s too scary to contemplate imminent doom. “Everything’s fine today, so that’s all I’m going to think about.” Classic denial.

        1. There’re lots of reasons…and the most important of which is that so few people are even aware that there really is a real problem. How many people even pretend to consider what they’re doing to global population levels when they’re making babies? Especially in places where the biggest concern is finding buyers for the crops they’re hoping to be able to harvest?

          And, even amongst the elite…of what relevance are global concerns to their lives within their gated communities? It’s not like they’d ever have to worry about how much the valet spends filling the limousine.

          The worst are those who’re fully aware of the problem and see it as an opportunity for personal profit. Get rich now and have an exit strategy for when everybody else winds up holding the sack.

          …and, lastly, there really are an awful lot of people who simply don’t understand, people who think that technology really can magic our way out of anything.


    3. The corporations rely on population growth for profits. How we manage a decline in population, so that the economy of the world doesn’t collapse, I have no idea. It’s not been done since the 14th Century, after the Great Plague, and if you look at the social consequences you will understand why the great and powerful resist the idea. The fall in the available workforce meant that workers had the upper hand for once, and wages and living standards rose dramatically, because landowners were in competition with each other for workers. Good luck getting that past the billionaires. As you say, it will happen one way or another, but the ruling class has pretty definitively shown that they’d rather put their fingers in their ears and worry about it tomorrow, than do anything at all detrimental to their current position. As Wile E. Coyote used to say “Why do they always want to do it the hard way?”

    4. In a mere quarter century — about as much time as since the founding of the United States

      Do you mean “…quarter millenium…?

    5. “At 7% we’re at the 100 million mark by then, which is likely ideal.”

      I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

      How to you justify the need for a world population that is 1/70th of current population, when right now we can (well, we easily could) house, feed, and clothe everyone on the planet?

      We already have the tech we need to stop burning fossil fuels, to harvest a boundless supply of green, clean energy, to end global warming. It seems to me to be an unproven assertion that the planet does not have a sustainable carrying capacity for 7 billion people – why would you think that 1/70th of that figure is optimal?

      The problem, of course, is the near future, when the [CO2] we have already emitted is going to play havoc with our ability to grow food and to keep our economic systems stable.

      Which is why building the carbon-free energy system we all agree we need is so much more important than worrying about population control. If we don’t get those solar and wind farms up in time, we are all going to kill each other so fast population control won’t be an issue any more.

      1. How to you justify the need for a world population that is 1/70th of current population, when right now we can (well, we easily could) house, feed, and clothe everyone on the planet?

        Because we can’t.

        You suggest we could do so with renewable energy sources…but the energy crisis is only one small part of the problem. Topsoil erosion, groundwater depletion, collapsing fisheries, habitat destruction, oceanic plastic pollution, nitrogen contamination from fertilizer runoff…on and on and on the list goes, every single one devastating in its own right, every single one the result of human overpopulation.

        Reducing the impact of each of those by an order of magnitude would make them something we could think about managing on medium timescales. Reducing them by two orders of magnitude would make them non-issues. Thus, we need two orders of magnitude fewer humans.


  3. The snake is offering Adam and Eve a way to control their reproduction so that they can both have some intimate funzies and not have more children than they want without resorting to sex shaming? This snake is such an awesome dude.

  4. Maybe we can convince the pope that Mars is where d*g is hiding and we can send him there with his followers!! On second thought, why terrorize the poor Martians!!?

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